Winter 2021 in Massachusetts – All Climate, All the Time
As the sun set on the last days of 2020, Massachusetts’ Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) published two key documents – the MA 2050 Decarbonization Roadmap report (plus its 6 technical appendices), which evaluated 8 different pathways towards more than 85% reductions in greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) by 2050, and the Interim Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2030, (“CECP”), which detailed the actions and policies that the Commonwealth proposed to employ to cut economy-wide GHG emissions by 45% from 1990 levels by 2030. Acadia Center has been hard at work reviewing the 2050 Roadmap, including determining what the “end dates” may be for the use of fossil fuels in Massachusetts, and is leading a coalition in writing comments on the CECP.
Less than a week after EEA released these long-awaited documents, the Massachusetts climate bill – legislation that Acadia Center and its partners had supported through the Senate, House, and conference committee process throughout 2020 – emerged from committee and passed both bodies in the waning hours of the 2019-2020 legislative session. The bill (S.2995) called for a net zero stretch code, 50% cuts in GHGs by 2030, reforms to the enabling statute of the Department of Public Utilities, and requirements that the energy efficiency plans achieve a GHG reductions goal and include the value of GHG reductions in cost-effectiveness calculations – three reforms at the heart of Acadia Center’s Next Generation Energy Efficiency strategy.
Governor Baker vetoed the bill on January 14th, citing, among other reasons, the expense of a net zero stretch code and a $6B incremental cost to achieve 50% emissions reductions by 2030, instead of the 45% planned for in the administration’s CECP.
Acadia Center debunked the Governor’s primary cited reasons for his initial veto in two blog posts. One demonstrated that a net zero stretch code is both a key provision of the administration’s own Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2030 and an attainable threshold that many builders in Massachusetts are already meeting at little additional cost. The other concluded that the $6B price tag cited by Governor Baker as the additional cost of achieving S.2995’s requirement of 50% cuts in emissions by 2030, versus 45% in the Clean Energy and Climate Plan was likely off by orders of magnitude, based on the 2050 Roadmap.
The timing of the veto as one legislative session ended and another began made it impossible for the legislature to override the Governor’s veto. With the overwhelming support for the landmark bill, House and Senate leadership refiled an identical bill, S.9, which passed on January 28th with veto-proof margins. As one of the co-chairs of the Alliance for Clean Energy Solutions (ACES), Acadia Center brought together over twenty clean energy businesses and advocacy organizations to sign on to a letter urging Governor Baker to sign the bill and empower Massachusetts to address the climate crisis – as well as another letter thanking legislative leadership for quickly passing S.9.
Governor Baker’s second veto took the form of an amended version the bill, S.13. As of this publication, the legislature is still considering whether to adopt the proposed changes or override the veto directly. Acadia Center has been engaged in conversations with legislative leadership about positive changes requested by the Governor that strengthen environmental justice provisions and stringency of the base building code, and encouraging the legislature to reject other changes, such as making the “floor” levels for 2030 and 2040 interim greenhouse gas emissions limits into “ceilings” and preventing future administrations’ abilities to reduce greenhouse gas pollution faster.
Why Acadia Center wants to see the Climate Bill become law:
As written, S.9 will put into law the commitments made by the Baker Administration’s Clean Energy and Climate Plan for 2030 and beyond, setting Massachusetts on a path to reach net-zero emissions and avoid the worst impacts of climate change. It represents a sea change in Massachusetts’ approach to climate change. While current law enables climate targets to be seen simply as an aspirational goal that feels good, this legislation would require the state to make a real commitment and plan to reach net zero by 2050. It also:
- Includes vitally important provisions ensuring that front line communities and low-wage workers will benefit from the Commonwealth’s transition to a low-carbon economy;
- Gives the Department of Public Utility (DPU) the authority it needs to consider equity and climate in its decisions;
- Requires interim targets and all sectors of the economy to strive towards emissions reductions;
- Puts in place real protections for environmental justice communities; and
- Makes the Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) a true tool to add significant renewable power on the system.
These are just a few of the benefits, and why Acadia Center is advocating so strongly for this bill.
Image credit: Office of Governor Baker on Flickr